Last week in Anaheim, National Association of Music Merchants show, NAMM 2013 opened its doors to over 90,000 visitors, all music lovers and music professionals. Alongside the traditional music gear, iPads were out in force –used at almost every booth. This year’s show saw several new innovations that boost mobile technology in audio to a new level. Music is more on the go than ever.
Attending NAMM is like walking through a candy store, an extremely expensive candy store. From top of the line custom guitars to the latest speaker technology or software, NAMM is the place to debut the latest and greatest music gear. It’s also a schmooze-fest for building connections, making deals, and catching a glimpse of music icons from Stevie Wonder to Mike Portnoy.
This year’s NAMM had the expected array of complex software and gadgets I will never be able to use, new instruments, and generally tons of shiny things. But then there were the iPads. So many iPads! In a sea of gear with millions of mysterious knobs and dials it was comforting to see a piece of technology I knew how to use. But then I would look at the gear the iPads were connected to and go “You can do WHAT with this?” A whole new wave of products have come out that can turn your iPad into anything, from a professional studio to almost every amp, drum, or effects pedal.
One of the big releases of the year was the new line of audio interfaces by Apogee that can turn an iPhone or iPad into a professional recording rig. The setup comes with Apogee’s Maestro software app so you can tweak the settings to get the best input signal. Just use your favorite music app to record the incoming sound and you’re good to go! This was the iPad release that I was the most excited about since the price tags for high quality recording gear are usually crazily expensive. While still not cheap, Apogee is still state of the art and is compatible with my computer as well as my phone and iPad so I really can use it anywhere. Apogee only works with Mac devices though, sorry Windows folks!
The iPad can function as more than just your recording studio, it can also be used on stage. The Alesis DM Dock Kit uses the iPad as the ‘brain’ for its electric drum kit, allowing the user to change sample tones to get the sound they want. This same technology is also used in the CME XKey MIDI Controller for Keyboards and the Digitech iPB-10 Programmable Pedalboard for guitarists. Even the live sound guy can use an iPad to control live mixes with the Behringer iX16 iPad Mixer Dock and then curse out the band while they all use their synched iPhones on stage to mess up his mix.
Largely because of their versatility, iPads are exploding into modern music faster than synthesizers did in the 80’s. The possibilities seem to be endless since these interfaces are easy to use and highly adaptable. Advancing digital technology is changing the music industry by putting a great deal of creative power at our fingertips. This will undoubtedly result in some amazing new music and a lot of awful nonsense (just search for ‘iPad Band’ on YouTube!). But either way, mobile tablets are definitely where the future of digital audio gear is headed.